It sounds so simple, yet so many of us regularly deny the way we feel.
For far too long, I’ve swallowed my feelings and pretended not to feel what I really feel through avoidance and denial. I have slowly started to learn to recognise when I am denying or avoiding.
I often clean when I’m upset, sometimes it’s merely to help me ground myself (more on that later), but also it’s a way of trying to avoid my feelings, particularly of fear and pain. Anger and tears often accompany my obsessive cleaning. Hardly a successful way to escape my feelings is it?
There are other behaviours too. The one I have relied on the most as a short term coping mechanism, is pretense. I pretend I feel the opposite of what I really feel. I’ve pretended for so long, that it has become natural to such an extent that a very big part of my life has been based around it. I know I’m not the only one to pretend I don’t feel something that I do, in fact I think more people do this than they realise.
In our sessions, my T guides me to feel what I feel and he encourages me to face the feelings I have spent so long avoiding. He advises me to own my feelings and to let those feelings sit as long as they need to. When I have done this in his presence, often the feeling intensifies for a while, but eventually it starts to fade. After, I have noted I am a whole lot calmer than when I avoid.
I’ve slowly started to put my T’s advice into practice between sessions. It’s difficult though because in society when someone is feeling down, we tell each other “chin up” “make the best of it” “count your blessing” etc etc. This is all very well meaning and the sentiment is appreciated, however, the danger is it can push me back to denial and suppression.
Today, I woke afraid, though I didn’t recognise the feeling of fear right away. I spent some time writing in my journal, until I identified the feeling and what was behind it (this Friday’s T session).
Identifying my feeling was step 1. Next was to allow myself to feel it, which though it may sound easy, it really was not at all. I could feel the urge to handle it in the way I am used, it took effort to fight the coping mechanisms that kick in automatically. I managed it though! As a result, this evening I’m not stressed or exhausted, or angry, which are often the feelings that accompany avoidance/ denial.
As for the fear, it did indeed intensify for a short time this morning, but that passed. Right now, it is still there, it’s not gone away, I am still very afraid of what is to come, but I’m feeling it and letting it sit.
My feelings are valid, normal and expected, but most importantly they are mine, I own them and they make me feel like me.